Roasted Beet Salad

I have always loved beets!  Granted, as a child and into early adulthood, my exposure to beets were limited to the canned variety or pickled beets.  Both are delicious, but you can’t full appreciate the true flavor unless you roast them yourself.  Luckily, our farmers market had some this past week and I was able to make this fantastic salad.  As a side or a main, this one hits all the right notes of sweet, salty, crunchy and fresh.IMG_0771

ROASTED BEET SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Medium Red Beets
  • 6 Cups Spring Lettuce
  • 4 Ounces Semi-Soft Chèvre (Goat Cheese)
  • 1/2 Cup Roasted Pistachios
  • 8 Tbs. Ken’s Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette
  • Fresh-cracked Black Pepper
  • Flaked Sea Salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Trim and wash beets thoroughly to remove dirt.  Do not dry them!  Wrap each wet beet individually in aluminum foil.
  • Place beets in a shallow baking dish or 9×9 pan and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
  • Remove beets from oven and allow to cool about 1 hour or until you are able to handle.
  • Remove beets from foil.  Unless you want red hands, wear rubber gloves and carefully peel each beet with a knife.  The skins will come off easily like a roasted sweet potato does.
  • Dice each beet into 1-inch cubes and place in a glass bowl.  You can refrigerate or use them at room temperature for this dish.  I prefer them chilled.  (HINT:  you can peel and dice beets with a pair of tongs and a knife, but be careful!)
  • Assemble 1 1/2 cups of lettuce mix on each of four plates.  Drizzle each plate with 2 Tbs. (or less) of the vinaigrette.
  • Arrange 1/4 of beets on each bed of dressed lettuce.
  • Sprinkle each salad with 1 ounce Chèvre and 1/4 of the pistachios.
  • Top each salad with fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste.
  • Serve immediately.

It sounds pretty simple, but the star of the show is the beet!!  I recommend the salad dressing above, but you can easily make your own light vinaigrette.  I recommend a fruity vinegar as it helps bring out the flavor and sweetness of the beets.  I enjoyed this for an easy lunch at home or topped with seared salmon for dinner or it would be a dazzling starter for your next dinner party – how gorgeous would this look on a large platter?!  Enjoy the bounty and eat those red and yellow beets while you can get them fresh.  Dig in!

Sweet & Salty Nectarine Salad

Taking advantage of fresh produce is what usually drives our cooking menu week to week.  With nectarines at their peak not long ago I made a delicious salad with the perfect combination to balance those sweet, soft and buttery nectarines.  It doesn’t get easier than four ingredients that make you look like a rockstar chef.

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SWEET & SALTY NECTARINE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Ripe Nectarines
  • 8 Slices Prosciutto
  • 8 Ounces Blue Cheese
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Instructions

  • Wash, pit and slice nectarines.  Arrange one nectarine’s-worth of slices per plate in a pinwheel.
  • Tear two slices of prosciutto into 3 pieces each and arrange in small “piles” around each plate.
  • Crumble 2 ounces of blue cheese over each plate.
  • Drizzle with a quality balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.

I said it was easy!  Any ripe stone fruit will work well in this recipe – try it with peaches or plums.  I used a blue cheese this time that was little harder than I would recommend, creamier would be better.  Want to vary the texture, try a few toasted walnuts or pistachios as a topper.  Dig in!

My Favorite 7-Layer Salad

After some extraordinarily busy months, I’ve found time to get back to cooking and entertaining.  And as summer weather has landed in Cincinnati, I’m looking forward to plenty of picnics, pool parties and family gatherings!  One of my go-to dishes for any of these occasions is my Favorite 7-Layer Salad.  There are lots of variations I’ve eaten in the past, but this particular combination of ingredients and dressing put this at the top of my list.  Crisp, green and fresh, it makes the perfect side for any of your upcoming summer gatherings.

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MY FAVORITE 7-LAYER SALAD

Ingredients

  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1 Cup Diced Celery
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions, Chopped
  • 8 Ounces Frozen Peas
  • 1 1/4 Cups Light Mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 6-8 Strips Cooked Bacon, Crumbled

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Instructions

  • Chop or tear entire head of lettuce into bite-size pieces.  Spread into an even layer in a 13×9 pan.
  • Sprinkle diced celery over lettuce.  Then spread green onions on top of celery.
  • Pour frozen peas over salad in a single layer.  Press down on first four layers to compact salad.  HINT:  I leave the peas frozen to keep the salad colder longer and it makes it easier to spread the dressing in the next step!
  • In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar and parmesan.  Spread evenly over frozen peas.
  • Sprinkle shredded cheese over salad and finally top with bacon.

You can serve this immediate if it will be out where the peas will thaw quickly.  You can also chill in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours prior to serving.  Also, you can use regular mayo, more cheese and/or bacon to make it a little more over-the-top.  Either way, I know you’ll love using this recipe throughout the summer.  Looking for variations?  Try using white onion instead of green for a little extra bite.  Also consider swapping or adding a layer of radishes or green pepper for additional texture and flavor.  Dig in!

Family-Style Cobb Salad

I love a great Cobb salad – the crunchy, soft, cold, salty combination of healthy food and various toppings that make it not-quite-so-good-for-you!  It’s a great idea for a summer dinner or on a buffet, especially this version.  Made in a big bowl or on a platter, it’s a beautiful display of color, flavor and texture.  The recipe below will easily feed four adults for dinner or 8 or more as a buffet side.

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FAMILY-STYLE COBB SALAD

Ingredients

  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce, Chopped
  • 2 Medium Tomatoes
  • 6 Chicken Tenderloins, Grilled
  • 8 Strips Crisp Bacon
  • 1 Avocado, Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Finely Diced Red Onion
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs, Chopped
  • 6 Ounces Blue Cheese Crumbles

Instructions

  • On a large chilled platter, arrange chopped lettuce in a even layer.
  • Seed and dice tomatoes and arrange together on lettuce.  You can choose to arrange ingredients in groups, stripes, pie shapes or whatever you think looks prettiest.  It’s best to keep them together rather than mix them up though so they keep their texture until serving.
  • Dice grilled chicken and place on the lettuce.  Don’t forget to season your chicken before grilling!
  • Crumble the bacon and arrange on lettuce.  Do the same with avocado.
  • Arrange onion on lettuce.  Be sure that it is finely diced to provide just the right amount of bite in contrast to the richness of the avocado, blue cheese and egg.  Don’t leave it out!
  • Finally, finish by arranging the egg and blue cheese to complete your salad.
  • Place in refrigerator for up to 2 hours or serve immediately.

While this hardly requires anything else, serve it with your favorite salad dressing.  My wife likes ranch, but I enjoy the contract of a vinaigrette or Russian dressing as well.  Don’t like one or more of the ingredients?  Lots of substitutes work well – cubed ham, sweet peas, cheddar cheese, etc.  Just keep in mind the combination of flavor and texture and change out like-for-like.  Add a crusty loaf of bread and crisp white wine and you have a beautiful summer dinner.  Dig in!

Crunchy Asian Slaw

BBQ season calls for coleslaw nearly every time, at least it does in our family!  I love traditional mayonnaise-y versions as well as vinegar-based slaws.  One of my very favorites is one my wife started making years and years ago.  This Asian-inspired version is tangy, crispy and nutty.  I honestly can’t get enough of it!

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CRUNCHY ASIAN SLAW

Ingredients

  • 1 Lbs. Bag Cabbage/Slaw Mix
  • 2 Packages Beef Ramen Noodles
  • I Cup Salted Sunflower Seeds
  • 1 Cup Slivered or Sliced Almonds, Toasted
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions, Chopped

Dressing

  • 3/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Envelopes Beef Flavor Packets (from ramen)

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Instructions

  • In a dry frying pan, lightly toast almonds over low heat until slightly browned.  Remove from heat and cool.
  • In a large bowl, mix together slaw mix, almonds, sunflower seeds, green onions and crushed ramen noodles.
  • In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk together until dissolved and smooth.
  • Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss to combine.
  • Chill for 2-4 hours and serve.

This is an easy and delicious version that goes well with any grilled protein.  Try it as a perfect acidic side dish to fatty short ribs or pork shoulder!  Do you like thinks a little spicy?  A thinly-sliced or finely-diced jalapeño or serrano pepper would be great here.  I also like to add a little sriracha for a kick.  Either way, I hope you love it too.  Dig in!

Arugula Salad

Sometimes simple is best.  I love all kinds of salads, but this is an easy no-fail salad that is perfect with any meal, to dress up a sandwich or top a pizza.  Just a coupe of ingredients highlight these peppery greens with almost no work at all.

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ARUGULA SALAD

Ingredients

  • 6 Cups Arugula
  • 3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

  • Place arugula in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the greens.  Add salt and pepper.
  • Toss lightly to coat evenly.
  • Refrigerate up to 1 hour or serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan.

Voila!  The “little black dress” of salads is now your go-to for almost any occasion.  It’s perfect served to start a meal, as a brunch side with an omelet or quiche or just on its own with a perfectly grilled piece of fish.  Simple ingredients, easy to make and oh-so-delicious.  Dig in!

Blueberry Salad w/Homemade Balsamic Dressing

After a few weeks of heavy holiday eating (we loved every minute of it!) it’s time to lighten the menu.  This salad recipe elevates mixed greens with the sweetness of blueberries, bite of red onions and saltiness of feta cheese.  Now, on their own these are a wonderful combination, but they’re even better when drizzled lightly with this perfectly balanced balsamic dressing!  Great at any time of the year, it’s a bright crisp addition to any meal, especially with winter soups and stews.

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BLUEBERRY SALAD

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Mixed Greens
  • 1 Cup Blueberries
  • 1/4 Red Onion, Sliced Thinly
  • 1/2 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese

HOMEMADE BALSAMIC DRESSING

Ingredients

  • 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbs. Cranberry Pear Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper

Instructions

  • In a small bowl or mason jar with lid, place all dressing ingredients.
  • Whisk together or close lid and shake well until thoroughly mixed and sugar is dissolved.
  • Refrigerate until used or up to 1 week.
  • Y0u can use any fruited balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar for a lighter, more neutral flavor.
  • Arrange salad ingredients on 2-4 plates, depending on portion size.  Drizzle lightly with dressing.

This is a basic recipe that can be updated with all kinds of variations.  Try substituting dried cranberries and orange segments for the blueberries and goat cheese for the feta.  As long as you keep the balance of sweet, tart and salty.  I also like adding the crunch of candied pecans, toasted pine nuts or salty pistachios.  Give a few of them a try and let me know your favorite combination.  I’m sure you’ll get a lot of use our of the recipe from weekday suppers to weekend dinner parties.  Dig in!

Avocado Sweet Corn Salad

I hate to even put this on my blog as an actual “recipe”, but my wife insisted because it was so good.  Sometimes it’s not about the technique or exotic ingredients, it’s just about the perfect combination and ratio of a few simple ones.  Summer is winding down, but now is the perfect time to find the sweetest corn in Ohio.  I like the combination of sweet corn, creamy rich avocado and the crisp bite of red onion to bring out the best flavors of all three.  Here’s the super-simple recipe for one of my favorite new salads.

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AVOCADO SWEET CORN SALAD

Ingredients

  • 2 Ripe Avocados
  • 2 Ears Sweet Corn
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Black Pepper

Instructions

  • Shuck corn and either boil or grill until fully cooked.  Allow to cool.
  • Remove avocados from skins and cut into medium chunks, about 1″.
  • Place diced avocado into a large bowl.  Slice corn off cob and add to the bowl along with red onion.
  • Sprinkle mixture with salt and pepper and toss until thoroughly mixed.  DO NOT over-mix or you’ll turn your avocado to mush!
  • Serve immediately.  A squeeze of fresh lime can also be used to prevent avocados from oxidizing.

See, it’s not rocket science!  I do love this combination though and never get tired of sweet corn when we can get it.  Now I wouldn’t muck this up with other ingredients, but you could use fresh tomato and/or black beans as well if you wanted to give it some more variety.  Remember that less is more and keep your ratios the same.  The recipe above is enough to feed four, but it’s easily multiplied for larger groups.  It’s also not too shabby to eat leftovers with tortilla chips either!  Enjoy the tastes of the end of summer and dig in!

Crunchy Celery Salad

Looking for something fresh for your Labor Day picnic??  Want an alternative to traditional salads that can wilt in heat?  Need a cool, crispy side dish that’s low on calories and high on taste?  Give your that celery the reboot with a salad that celebrates it in all its crispy, crunchy saltiness!!  You can use this as a perfect accompaniment to bbq, fried chicken and all the other picnic indulgences you love to eat.  It can also be elegant and perfect for a dinner party – I served this recently with steaks and shrimp with great feedback!

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CRUNCHY CELERY SALAD

Ingredients

  • 2 Bunches Celery
  • 1 Cup Walnut Pieces
  • Shaved Parmesan or Fontina Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper

Instructions

  • In a dry pan, warm walnuts over low heat until fragrant and lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.
  • Wash celery and hearts thoroughly.  Don’t throw away the leafy hearts, they’re delicious!!
  • Trim ends off of celery and then cut on a bias into 1/2-inch pieces.  Chop leaves and hearts in a small chop.  Place the celery and hearts in a medium bowl.
  • In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until vinaigrette comes together.
  • Add walnuts to celery and then pour dressing over both.  Toss thoroughly to coat salad entirely.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve, place in serving bowl and top with cheese shavings to taste.

Pretty simple, right?  The flavor is outstanding though and most people haven’t eaten this salad before.  I think the addition of crispy bacon pieces would also be delicious in this salad.  Want to make it festive for the holidays?  Add thinly sliced radishes or dried cranberries/cherries for color and a touch of sweetness.  I’d love to hear how you make this your own!!  Try it this Labor Day Weekend and enjoy!

Watermelon Salad

The typical watermelon salad is easy and delicious, but my wife doesn’t like tomatoes.  I know, it’s a crime against humanity!  I substitute peaches in this version for a great textural and flavor contrast.  Try this light flavorful salad for your next picnic or with a simple grilled dinner at home.

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WATERMELON SALAD

Ingredients

  • 1 Small Watermelon – About 4 Cups
  • 2 Peaches, Peeled & Diced
  • 4 Ounces Feta Cheese Crumbles
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Mint, Chopped

Instructions

  • Dice watermelon into 1-inch cubes and place into a large bowl.
  • Peel and dice peaches into 1/2-inch cubes and add to watermelon.
  • Sprinkle in feta and mint and stir mixture to combine.
  • Chill for 1 hour minimum and serve immediately.

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The perfect combination of sweet and crisp watermelon, soft and slightly tart peaches, salty feta and bright fresh mint make this an explosion of flavors!  Enjoy the taste of summer with this feast for the eyes and taste buds – dig in!!